Meet the 2020 Wood Industry 40 Under 40
July 22, 2020 | 3:15 pm CDT
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This year marks the fifth annual awarding of the 40 Under 40, which celebrates the next generation of industry professionals who are making an impact on wood products manufacturing in North America.

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A forward thinker who loves to problem solve, Joey Anton, “is constantly analyzing the company and looking for ways to improve our processes, become a better leader, and help the bottom line.” The vice president of operations at Anton Cabinetry, the 38-year-old Anton has spearheaded the Pantego, Texas-based company’s effort to incorporate a project management system and create a more streamlined process.

“Besides the obvious advantages to using technology, Joey's efforts have made the business a better place,” says his nominator. “He champions employees to contribute to our continuous improvement with their ideas and suggestions, several of which have been implemented. Because of his insistence to use lean principles, we were able to bring in a lean consultant to guide us through our journey in creating a better company culture, as well as improving our bottom line."

His nominator adds, "Because of him, our team has been able to rearrange our process flow to reduce waste, reduce product damage on shipping, and reduce lifting injuries. We have been able to create ways for others to be successful with their responsibilities, and work together to streamline our production.”

Anton’s nominator adds, “His influence and constant desire to improve and innovate has allowed our entire company to work better together, communicate better, and perform better.”

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"Leader," "humble" and a "passion" – for the company, community and industry – are just a few of the words used by nominators to describe Brad Bartha, Division Operations manager at Indiana-based Genesis Products Inc.

“Brad was a born leader and mentor,” says one nominator of the 31-year-old Bartha. “Brad came to Genesis about 2.5 years ago after spending 8 years in the Army and a short period sharpening his leadership with a local manufacturing company here in Goshen.  He made an immediate impact in his first year and was voted Genesis - Rookie of the Year by employees. He was promoted to Operations Manager in year 2 and now leads over 200 hourly employees and 16 managers in day-to-day operations for three of our lamination plants.  His personal touch and empathy to employees have been demonstrated in almost all plants excelling in their performance metrics.”

Bartha has been instrumental in implementing and executing 5S programs, Gemba Walks, Tier Board Visual Management as well as Regular Process Audits for the plants he oversees. His drive to excel has helped take the company’s operations to the next level.

“Brad sets his sights on doing whatever it takes to master the goal at hand,” says another nominator. Along with helping to spearhead community service activities with local not-for-profit organizations for employees, “Brad also believes that being genuinely good and empathetic to everyone he encounters on a daily basis is important. He gives respect.”

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An engineer at 5-Acre Mill, Tim Becker Jr.  “has found a way to combine woodworking with his passion for science and engineering, and his love of art and music,”  to produce functional works of art, says his nominator.

At the Hicksville, Ohio-based furniture components manufacturer, Becker has stood out for his willingness and ability to find the best process to ensure the customer receives the desired product. “His graphic depiction and definition of the woodworking process [makes] for easier understanding and standardization,” including the use of 3D printed parts to help customers visualize the final project. “His ability to think in four dimensions also allows him to carve unique shapes to customers’ needs,” adds the nominator, “using an artist’s eye and engineer’s thinking in combination to make things better.”

The 37-year-old Becker is known also for his work creating custom guitars and is a skilled musician, sharing his talents with the community. “He does many charity performances with his band, and has created guitars and gifted them to local musicians,” notes his nominator.

“Combining art, music, and STEM, Tim has shown that you don't have to give up your passions or choose one or the other. He has found a way to meld them all together, creating something new.”

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The general manager at Caldwell Cabinets of N.C. LLC, dba Caseworx, “John Bostian has been able to lead our company from its conception in 2014, through consistent growth, and now through current times of social and economic uncertainty,” says his nominator.

A co-founder of the cabinetry and millwork firm,  the 38-year-old Bostian “has made it his personal mission to cultivate and invest in our leadership team and to capitalize on current crises associated to COVID-19 by challenging us to adapt and grow even more now than ever before.”  His efforts have helped spur Caseworx to nearly $5 million in annual sales, with projects located throughout North America. Based in Hudson, North Carolina, the company has more than 30 employees.

“John is one of the best leaders I have had the honor to work for,” his nominator adds. “I personally have been motivated to be a better leader by being on his team. I have seen him challenge our team time and time again to be better, to work harder, and to accept nothing less than exceptional results. His investments in our team have certainly generated high returns.

“Not only has John been a gifted leader, but he has also been an exceptional estimator, cabinet maker, home builder, carpenter, salesman, husband to his wife Hannah, father to his two children, and friend,” the nominator adds. “John has always been willing to do whatever it takes to be successful and wear whatever hat necessary to ensure the company succeeds.

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"Successful entrepreneur," "servant leader," and "skilled woodworker" are just some of the phrases used to describe Kenny Bowling. The 30-year-old business manager for TN Box Beams, “he’s built a team of exceptional craftsmen, investing in them professionally and personally. And he’s built a brand that is known for transforming homes and lives,” says his nominator.

Based in Franklin, Tennessee, TN Box Beams helps fund the work of nonprofit Narrow Gate and its initiatives, Narrow Gate Lodge which helps young men searching for direction, and Narrow Gate Exchange which equips young men in economically disadvantaged countries with the skills to start and operate sustainable businesses in their communities.

“Kenny is extremely wise, hardworking and talented, but his humility is what sets him apart from all others,” adds his nominator. For example, during the taping of an HGTV show which featured TN Box Beams, Bowling reluctantly agreed to be on camera with the stars.

“But there was another ‘scene’ that the cameras missed, and it shows an authentic picture of who Kenny Bowling is. When Kenny delivered the TN Box Beams to the set for install, there was torrential rain, and he had to leave the truck at the bottom of a steep hill. The only way Kenny could get the beams to their destination was to put them on his back and trudge up the hill in the rain. That’s the real picture of who Kenny is. He is humble. He is a servant leader who puts others and their needs ahead of himself.”

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The director of Marketing & Sales at Diplomat Closet Design, Laura Bryan is a “catalyst and inspiration for every employee that walks through the doors.” According to her nominator, “18 months ago we started revamping everything our company was doing.  We formed a leadership team, started operating on Traction, started an all-new marketing plan.... all tremendous investments.  If Laura were not on the leadership team, we would not have had as much success as we've had.”

“She dove headfirst into a new CRM, that coincided with our marketing, trained a new designer/sales rep., worked through personnel changes, all while continuing to sell and grow our key accounts.... with a smile on her face (maybe) the entire time,” he added.

At mid-March, the Downingtown, Pennsylvania-based company’s sales were up 50% compared to the previous year, “and most importantly, [we] had all of the right people and the processes and procedures in place to be able to get through the COVID pandemic unscathed. We were more prepared for a catastrophic pandemic than I ever thought we'd be and it's because of her dedication to get us to that position,” he said of the 34-year-old Bryan.

“She continues to push boundaries and push our employees to get better every day.  A bullish mentality in a sweet outer shell.”

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The product manager at Masonite Architectural, Emily Burgoyne’s “strong work ethic, ‘can-do’ attitude, and passion for the industry have driven her portfolio of successful products at ClosetMaid and Masonite Architectural,” says her nominator. “Emily has proven to be a key contributor in the wood industry, given her ability to envision, manage, and complete complex projects such as new product development, product launches, and market and consumer research. Her leadership skills are continually displayed while leading multi-functional project teams. Her ability to present and effectively communicate her ideas truly separates her from her peers.”

Among her accomplishments, Burgoyne developed and executed major product launches at ClosetMaid, including the MasterSuite 27th Avenue Collection, SpaceCreations, Style+ and the Closet Maximizer. “As a result of her efforts and emphasis on the need for product evolution, she helped transform the historically ‘functional’ wood closet industry into a style and performance-driven category,” her nominator says.

Also, in just a short time at the Tampa, Florida-based firm, the 29-year-old Burgoyne “has reshaped the positioning of TFL within the Masonite Architectural portfolio and qualified specialty laminates from leading manufacturers for use on wood doors.”

Described as a “perpetual force,” Burgoyne is also known for her networking and education skills.  “Her enthusiasm for connecting with others isn’t limited to woodworking – she seeks relationships with other innovative thinkers spanning many industries to identify unapparent insights across sectors.  As much as Emily enjoys learning, she also likes helping others by sharing her industry knowledge and unique perspective on various topics.” 

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Described as “motivated and dedicated,” Ryan Casto took over the family business, Mountain Showcase Group Inc., when he was just 24. And in the years since taking over as president, the 37-year-old Casto has grown the custom cabinetry manufacturer, “from a $1 million company to $5 million, and has made the Inc. 5000 list (of fast-growing companies) 3 years in a row,” says his nominator.

At the 35,000-square-foot Hendersonville, North Carolina-based company, Casto is known for working long hours as a manager and for helping on the production floor when needed. “Ryan has purchased the most technically advanced equipment and software to make our operation as lean as possible,” says his nominator. “The shop is producing higher quality products more efficiently while making it safer and easier for our employees. His interaction with our team has made for a more family environment,  where we all look out for each other and help each other – this  comes from his leadership.”

Adds the nominator, “He wants to do the right thing and that includes helping the company, the employees and the community where he participates in a program that helps widows.”

“He is definitely outstanding in his field.”

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A driving force in the growth and success of Cohen Architectural Woodworking LLC, Naomi Cohen plays a leading role in the design, scheduling and logistics of many key projects involving large healthcare facilities, airports and other commercial businesses. Based in St. James, Missouri, the award-winning architectural millwork firm employs approximately 80 people, with projects throughout the United States.

“As a CAD designer and engineer working on the foundation for the jobs at hand, her role requires an extreme amount of attention to detail and good communication skills. She and her team focus on designing an aesthetically appealing, functional, yet practical product that’s both buildable and captures the client’s intent. Naomi works one-on-one with clients, understands their pain points, and is excellent at helping create a design solution that not only works well with the client’s goals and objectives but exceeds their expectations,” says her nominator.

As director of Design, the 32-year-old Cohen “leads a team that has helped drive Cohen Architectural to high-levels of sales and revenue growth,” and has played a large role on several award-winning projects.

“Naomi is driven to succeed and is very passionate about her work, her team and her clients. She enjoys creating solutions that solve other people’s problems,” her nominator adds. “Naomi will invest the time and resources to ensure her team has the right tools to succeed and clients receive the best results the company has to offer. She, like other members of the Cohen team, will do whatever it takes to make sure the client’s work will meet or exceed expectations while maintaining excellent client relationships.”

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The Residuals Sales and Marketing manager at Woodgrain Millwork, Taylor Dame has been called “driven, determined, creative and an outside the box thinker.” Among his achievements, Dame rebranded and helped drive the Fruitland, Idaho-based company’s byproduct sales from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $2 million in sales in just three years, says a nominator.

“Taylor has developed a small secondary part of our business, which is the residuals (sawdust) that comes from the manufacturing of our millwork products, and developed it into a very profitable part of our business, selling both sawdust used for animal bedding [Natures by Woodgrain], and manufacturing [Timberland brand] heating pellets from the sawdust residual,” says another nominator.  The category has continued to expand, including the introduction of pellets for animal bedding.

The 33-year-old Dame “does a great job at looking at all opportunities and exploring how he can increase the bottom line,” adds the first nominator. “Because of the effort from Taylor and his team, we have been able to create a revenue stream that wasn't there in the past,” with a customer list that includes Tractor Supply,  DMB, and Home Depot.

“He wants to see the things he's involved in thrive,” adds the first nominator. “ It's important to be the best and if he’s going to do something, to do it right. He demands a lot from his team and helps them succeed along the way.”

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Since starting Daso Custom Cabinetry in a garage nearly 20 years ago, founder and CEO Jeff Daso has grown the Creston, Ohio-based company in size and scope, including a 20,000-square-foot production facility and state-of-the-art showrooms, in nearby Dublin and Strongsville.

“Jeff is unique in that he can step in and do everyone's job, and do it well,” says one nominator. “He knows what each position takes and it’s comforting to know that a boss values what you are doing. He wants everyone to succeed and,” she adds, “can see the diamond in the rough and knows what it takes to make them shine. A good business owner knows that when their employees shine so does their company.”

The 38-year-old Daso “is extremely motivated by growth and success and is always propelling his company forward, to leave a legacy for his family,” says a second nominator. “He sees unlimited potential in his company, and never settles with where he is at today.”

She adds, “Jeff's local presence has allowed him to hire within the community, support the area as a small business, and give back in charitable ways.  Jeff has a passion for athletics and has continued to support local little league, and assistant coach youth football and soccer.  In addition, the company donates construction and cabinetry work to local families and churches.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, Daso also reached out to current and past customers to offer assistance, going “above and beyond the vendor-client relationship.”

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“Integrity, passionate, and hard worker” are just some of the qualities used to describe Cole Derosier, owner and operator of Integrity Custom Cabinetry LLC, based in Phoenix, Arizona. “His company has almost doubled in revenue each year” since its inception 8 years ago, says his nominator. Among the products manufactured are kitchen and bath cabinetry, built-ins, islands, wall units, closets, mantels and millwork.

It’s his passion for woodworking and customer service that has helped the 37-year-old  Derosier to succeed. “He has the ability to be involved in every aspect. You can often find him in the shop or out in the field, in order to guarantee the product meets his expectations. He takes pride in each and every piece that is produced.”

Along with treating “employees like they are family,” his nominator says, “he has built a clientele based on communication, trust and the amount of pride he takes in his product. He is willing to go above and beyond for his family, clients, and employees.”

She adds, “Cole’s biggest motivation each day is his beautiful family, consisting of his wife, daughter and newborn son. He wants to provide a wonderful, happy, comfortable life for his family. He is also motivated by the fact that he is also responsible for all of his employees' families. Lastly, he is motivated to be the best at what he does and to provide the best product and experience possible.”

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The director of Engineering at USA Millwork, Jacob Edmond “has personally envisioned and implemented all of the engineering libraries and scheduling tools we use across all locations,” says his nominator. “He has reconfigured how engineering is perceived to function within an organization and transformed the organizational structure for our engineering department to better support all five locations.” Headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, USA Millwork combines the expertise of five regional manufacturers across the United States: IBS Millwork, O’Keefe Millwork, Cabinets by Design, Freelance Millwork and Mission Bell Millwork.

“Our company is filled with millwork giants, men and women who are both Jacob's senior by age and experience, many who are known for achievements as CEOs at other companies. And yet, when [32-year-old] Jacob talks, they listen. His depth of knowledge and passion for what he does break through any bias, and he has earned the trust of everyone in our organization from those below him all the way to the top.”

Adds his nominator,  “[Edmond] exhibits one of the finest skills a leader can have – he impacts people with his presence, and they remain changed in his absence. He empowers members of our organization with training, software tools that he personally designs, and his confidence in them.”

“In addition to what Jacob has done for our company, he is simply a good man. He's passionate about life and doing what is right for the community. He finds great joy in hard work as well as his family and believes in contributing to a higher cause through effort and commitment.”

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“Inspirational,” “intentional” and “visionary” are all words used to describe 30-year-old Jordan Gurren Rose, owner of GoodWood NOLA LLC, a New Orleans-based custom furniture design/build firm known for its sustainability and community efforts.

“Jordan is driven to design sustainable products and timeless designs that inspire his community. In addition, he strives to empower his team and advance their skills by empowering them to lead projects for the company. He inspires an inventive strength for his team and encourages professional growth for all,” says one nominator.

“Jordan is incredibly hard-working, thoughtful, and has an unrivaled attention to detail. Whether it is working on a piece of furniture, dealing with our staff, meeting with clients, tirelessly updating our shop, or just answering some emails, he puts 150% of his effort in every time” adds another. “He is not only a great builder, but also a great businessman. Jordan has led our production team and a large portion of our commercial client portfolios for years.”

He continues, “On top of all of this, Jordan is dedicated to our sustainable business agenda - he works around the clock to ensure we are always leading our industry in sustainability and community outreach. Last year alone, Jordan managed to secure five incredible sponsorship and donation opportunities with local organizations here in New Orleans helping at-risk youth get on a better path to success.”

During the COVID-19 crisis, another nominator notes,  “Jordan pivoted GoodWood to the production of PPE for local hospitals, which filled a critical void and allowed not only GoodWood to remain viable, but many other companies in GoodWood's supply chain as well.” The company would go on to produce more than 75,000 face shields for local hospitals within just 4 weeks.

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The Sales & Design manager at Danlee Wood Products, Lindsay Heitz has been an “agent of change” since joining the Forreston, Illinois-based cabinetry firm in 2019. In a short time, Heitz has already implemented the use of Production Authorization, Paint Awareness, and Change Order forms, instituted a purchase order system, began tracking expenses per job, and calculating gross profit, all which had not been done in the past.

“In addition to those items, one of my greatest accomplishments is designing and launching our cabinet brand for DWP Custom Cabinetry,” including curating a palette of stains and paints, profiles for door styles, and designing a selection center in Cabinet Vision to house them all.

Next on the agenda is to expand the geographical footprint into neighboring regions and grow sales, “none of which can be done successfully if we first do not have processes and procedures in place to ensure the production of the job runs smoothly, accurately, and is profitable at the end of the day,” she says.

The 38-year-old Heitz also enjoys “spreading the joy of design and woodworking to the younger generations,” including judging 4-H fair entries in the Interior Design category.  “I also value community involvement and partner with CareerTEC, which provides technical job education to six local school districts.  I participate in Manufacturing Day at the local community college, as well as actively work with a local high school on a new academy model of learning.”

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The company’s creative director,  Morgan Hopfensperger appears in nearly all of Micro Jig’s videos, from debuting a new product on YouTube to walking people through a project on Instagram stories. “Morgan’s videos have generated over 6 million views. He has also helped Micro Jig fine-tune its website, packaging, photography and video marketing,” says his nominator. “This has contributed to quadrupled direct-to-consumer sales and a strengthened dealer network.”

“But Morgan’s work goes far beyond being a face of the company,” adds his nominator. “During his time at Micro Jig, he has been instrumental in helping the company develop innovative products that revolutionize the shop, build market share and make a difference in the woodworking community and beyond.”

Products noted include the MatchFit system and the development of a kickback machine. “This revolutionary device demonstrates the dangers of kickback in a real way — something woodworkers never want to experience themselves, but that they must know how to avoid,” says the nominator. The 34-year-old Hopfensperger, she adds, “is a passionate maker himself, and he cares deeply for the woodworking community. He is motivated by the idea that his work at Micro Jig could make a transformative, lasting impact on that community.”

Described as “dedicated, passionate and forward-thinking,” Hopfensperger also helps the Winters Park, Florida-based Micro Jig with its 1% for People initiative, through which the machinery accessories firm has pledged to donate 1% of revenue to charity.

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The CEO of Woodworks Millshop, Nick Kohli “moved from the hustle-bustle of Wall Street Banking to become a woodworker and business leader,” says his nominator. “He found banking was unfulfilling and always had a passion for wood products.”

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Woodworks Millshop designs and producing custom woodwork for residential and commercial projects across the United States, including The Broadmoor and residences in Garden of the Gods and Hollywood. The company’s products range from cabinetry and furniture pieces to architectural woodworking, created through a combination of handcraftsmanship and technology, to “make a perfect product out of a material that is not perfect.”

With an understanding of their clients’ vision,  Woodworks Millshop’s “projects are of the highest quality with high-end finishes,” says his nominator. Calling him “inspirational” and an “entrepreneur,” she notes, “At the young age of 28, Nick provides inspiration for younger people to get into a woodworking profession.”

In a company video, Kohli sums up his philosophy toward woodworking, saying in part, “I hope in everything that we build for our clients, they see a piece of themselves. I hope that they know that they had a hand in everything they’re seeing.”

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Senior Project Manager and co-owner of Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Northland Woodworks with her husband Matt, Leah Krig also recently co-founded a local group called Women In Construction in recognition of the increasing number of women in what has been a historically male-dominated industry. “In fact,” says her nominator, “some of her motivation for getting this group going comes from being the only female in her own company. Quite often these women are principals and CEOs of construction and supporting industries, yet have had little to no outlet for business networking and camaraderie.“

Krig and the other WINC co-founders created branding and marketing materials as well as formed a board and drafted bylaws. The 40-year-old Krig also has helped organize more than 40 WINC events including plant tours, educational and networking events.

“Seeing Leah grow as a fixture in our local construction has brought a lot of positive attention to our company and really given us increased exposure as a byproduct of her efforts. Her vision and execution have led to a larger network of highly connected female trade professionals who are very savvy business people interested in peer networking and supporting those who get involved.  Too often women are seen as the background of a company, and WINC has allowed women to come to the forefront, sharing successes and elevating others in a way that hasn't existed until now.”

He adds, “Leah has the tenacity and drive to see things through, but is always approachable and inquisitive, while looking to elevate others along the way.”

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The Processing & Projects manager at Laurysen Kitchens Ltd., Corey Laurysen “has embraced new technology and brought it to our company helping us keep pace with the advancements in our industry,” says his nominator.

“He was introduced to a program called Bridgit Closeout (a punch list) that builders were using to keep track of their site's progress. He reached out to Bridgit Closeout and implemented this software program in our Service Department. The creators of the program never thought to apply it to the trades, so our company was helping them discover new applications in our industry. This program has greatly reduced the number of service calls, provides us with a clear picture of our major sites and the service completed as well as the timetable of all service items,” describes his nominator.

Headquartered in Ontario, Laurysen Kitchens is known in Canada for its award-winning designs and service. The cabinetry and custom closets manufacturer celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

“Corey's motivation comes from his desire to improve the company and as the third generation of this family-owned business there is a pride and love of the industry that he comes by naturally,” says his nominator. The 34-year-old Laurysen  is also “driven to succeed in a team environment.”

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Jesse Mullet is a man of many talents, says his nominator. The 37-year-old president of nuCamp is a businessman, woodworker, marathon runner, iron man, cycling champion, and philanthropist.

Mullet’s company, nuCamp, is known for its high-quality, award-winning recreational vehicles, including teardrop trailers, and truck campers. Recognized for its excellence in manufacturing, the Sugarcreek, Ohio-based company utilizes CNC technology and handcraftsmanship to produce the vehicles' cabinetry, interior components and infrastructure, which are made from hardwoods, plywood and composite materials.

In addition to lean principles, giving back is also a huge part of the culture at nuCamp. In 2018, for example, Mullet pedaled 3,400 miles cross country, while raising money for Pure Gift of God, an organization committed to helping families overcome financial barriers to adoption. Of the effort, the motivation, and the link of business with philanthropy, Mullet noted, “I’m definitely inspired by the cause…It is definitely a big part in why I do what I do, is for that cause bigger than myself.”

Described as “highly motivated,” Mullet has also played a large role in increasing the productivity and profits of the multi-million dollar company, which employs more than 200 people at the 150,000-square-foot facility.

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Marketing manager at Axalta Coating Systems, Vanessa Navarro is always the one “to ‘go-to’ when things need to get done,” says her nominator.

“Axalta is fortunate to have such a talented person in its Wood Coatings Division,” he adds. “There is not one specific reason for nominating Vanessa, but rather the culmination of her contributions to the Wood Team. Vanessa developed the Wood Vibes program that increases market awareness of the Wood Division's color capabilities. She is the lead person for new product brand strategies; her ideas are always fresh, modern, and capture the zeitgeist of the market.” The 40-year-old Navarro also coordinates the social media strategy for the division, “no easy task,” and has galvanized others to participate in the efforts.

“Vanessa also lends her many talents to worthy causes. She was part of Axalta's involvement in Go Baby Go, a group that builds special cars for mobility-challenged children. Vanessa was our Go-Baby-Go event leader this past winter as we partnered with Herman Miller to allow four children in West Michigan to get a new ‘Ride’.”

Her nominator adds, “It is difficult to define the impact of Vanessa's contributions to Axalta and the Wood Coatings market.  She promotes Axalta's wood coatings capabilities every day, bringing to light technology and other innovations happening in the market. Vanessa's work elevates Axalta as an industry leader not only in technology, but in color and design trends, which is valuable to Axalta and the industry itself. We all are very proud of Vanessa's hard work and team effort she promotes daily.”

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Described as "highly professional, motivated and experienced beyond his years," Frank Nuñez helped set up and is responsible for production at Alvic USA LLC’s 350,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Auburndale, Florida. The 29-year-old plant manager’s efforts have ensured the facility achieves the high levels of quality and consistency the global, award-winning company’s products are known for, says his nominator.

A team player with the ability to work effectively under pressure and in a fast-paced environment, “Frank has composed a great team of people working together through a common goal: to ramp up ALVIC USA’s pressing, lacquering and cut to size production,” the nominator adds.

ALVIC manufactures cabinetry and furniture panels for residential and commercial projects. Specializing in high-gloss, European design, the company expanded to the United States in order to meet the growing demand.

Nuñez’s efforts help to ensure ALVIC meets its goals. Also motivating Nuñez in his path to success is his desire “to represent the brand and the company where he works and develop a career to be proud of in the future.”

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The director of Marketing and Sales at Old Wood LLC, Mika Old successfully manages both national and international sales of the company’s range of wood floors, including very wide planks, end grain wood blocks, and architectural elements. “Mika is a rock star,” says her nominator.

In addition to designing displays for the flooring specialist and assisting at numerous shows worldwide, the 29-year-old is also involved in managing high profile projects, including: the Singapore JW Marriot, Kuwait Ministry of Education, Museum of Modern Art NYC, Olympic Museum, and Chicago Children’s Museum. “She’s currently working on the National Library Israel and La Guardia Terminal 2, Portland Airport and others. Mika is all over the world every day from her showroom in downtown Santa Fe,” he adds.

In between projects, she “handles roughneck trucking companies for our daily shipments in our Flooring and Firewood divisions.” Old also manages and creates content for the company’s websites, oldwood.us and firewoodnm.com.

Her efforts have contributed significantly to the Las Vegas, New Mexico-based company’s growth. “Mika is always on point helping, guiding, thinking and doing the work,” says her nominator, adding that Old is also motivated by “her love of family, and moral commitment from a love of God and country.”

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Along with his sister Mika, Shiloh Old manage 60% of the sales and operations at Old Wood LLC, a “growing, international, stressed to the max small company.” Headquartered in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Old Wood specializes in manufacturing wood floors, including very wide planks, end grain wood blocks, and architectural elements, for national and international distribution.

The 31-year-old vice president, International Operations, “Shiloh does everything from run the six-head moulder, sanders and shop equipment, to being the master of our modern UV/IR automated rollout finishing line – both in one day, while managing crews of 30-plus folks. In addition, he also manages our Firewood division, which is more like a national level business than you would ever imagine with revenues of around $1 million and growing,” says his nominator. Old also helps design products and display booths for national and international trade shows, and also participates at the shows. “Old Wood would be nowhere without Shiloh.”

With a degree in International Business and Marketing, Old is also motivated by  “the thrill of the chase.”  An experienced pilot he is often “flying our small company plane to meetings on the reservations we frequently do business,” or “traveling, sometimes alone on two-week international sales journeys, with the support of U.S. and New Mexico trade officials to Southeast Asia, Middle East and elsewhere.”

Adds the nominator, “He is a machine.”

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The vice president at Eurowood Cabinets Inc., Tyler Paskach has experienced almost every type of job at the Omaha, Nebraska-based custom cabinetry and closets firm, including installation, hands-on production, rebuilding the company website and implementing several new company policies for employees and company processes.

The 28-year-old Paskach also spearheaded “the implementation of our industry’s latest technologies for our shop (scrap management, pre-labeled pull-on push-off nested based CNC machining, sheet stock storage with lift technology and distribution to beam saw and nested router). Tyler took it upon himself to learn AutoCAD and Microvellum, our company’s design and manufacturing software, and now is able to create 3D products and designs, and send them through our CNC machines,” details his nominator. Paskach is now in the process of rebuilding the company’s job tracking program – “the heartbeat of our company” – from Microsoft access to SQL. If that wasn’t enough, says his nominator, “Tyler has also taken on the management and total redesign of our showroom.”

“Tyler is committed, loves and has a natural desire for the woodworking industry,” he adds. And in turn, “Tyler has earned the great respect of all of our employees, ranging from 1 to 27 years with our company, and in turn they all want to work harder to help improve the company.

“Our company is presented more professionally to our clients and our employees,” he adds. “Processes are more streamlined, and we are able to take on more jobs and in a more controlled manner. We are seeing it on the bottom line.”

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The Customer Success Advocate at Innergy, Greg Rawlings “is one of the most patient and caring people in this business,” says his nominator. “His education degree makes his approach to business one that is thoughtful and thorough.  He has had the patience to create and integrate a complex estimating program while helping his estimating team to meet their goals each year.”

In addition to his role at the Sauk Rapids, Minnesota-based ERP software solutions provider, the 35-year-old Rawlings also is the current president of the AWI Heart of America Chapter.  “Greg genuinely wants to add value to everything that he is doing [and] will go above and beyond for anyone at any time. I don't think this guy has learned the word ‘no’! His move from the business world to the woodworking technology world will be one that benefits many for years to come.

"He is an amazing teacher – forward-thinking, and someone you can rely on for results.”

Motivating Rawlings “has always been the drive to improve a process,” adds his nominator. “ The 'identify and refine' concept has guided Greg from the time I met him.  He also loves to connect departments together through data.  It is part of his giving nature to want to help those in his department as well as in other departments.”

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The fourth generation involved in the wood preservation industry, James Renfroe joined his father’s company, Wood Care Systems, after graduating college, and has gone on to help streamline and update operations at the Kirkland, Washington-based firm where he is vice president.

In addition, the 32-year-old  Renfroe “has engaged in some amazing product development projects that are having a big impact on the preserved wood industry,” says his nominator. “His projects span from industrial applications of borate rods into railway ties to the repair and remodeling market to ensure wood lasts when exposed to the elements.”

Described as a critical, outside the box thinker, “his remediation tools are helping to ensure the looks and longevity of wood for all those who design and create wood products.  It is one thing to play around with new products in the construction market, but he has also branched out into non-traditional markets with a big payout.  Going after railway ties to extend their life even longer has given way to new products and process developments that the railways are all chasing after. He has helped to lead the charge and find the most effective way to make it work commercially, which is always the hardest part,” says his nominator.

“No one ever calls a wood remediation company with a happy story. James has gone on the initiative to find ways to introduce protection before the problems arise.  He knows it will grow his business and provide the best story for the wood industry. He has a critical role in sustainability. It is not just planting more than you cut down, it is making sure the wood lasts long enough for the new trees to grow big enough to replace it.”

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“A  trailblazer in the male-dominated engineered wood products manufacturing industry,” Vanessa Richter is the co-founder and COO of  Troico Home Solutions and Manufacturing Inc. Located in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Troico has approximately 35 associates and more than 100 partners/sub-contractors.

The 33-year-old Richter’s  “passion for quality and innovation was at the heart of Troico's-state-of-the-art 16,000 square foot manufacturing facility, specializing in robotic based manufacturing of cabinetry. Under Vanessa's leadership, Troico has become BC's most awarded cabinet manufacturer. Her goal of driving exceptional quality and customer service while preserving extensive and sustainable growth, developing best practices, promoting her company culture and vision has been rewarded with the extensive growth Troico has experienced in just eight short years,” says her nominator.

Richter’s influence stretches further. “In 2019 Vanessa and her team developed, supported and delivered a program to employ young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Troico’s manufacturing facility. Manufacturing wood cabinetry is repetitive and process-driven which is excellent for the autistic mind. Vanessa rolled out this program in honor of her son Jackson (8 years old) who, like many, is on the spectrum. Securing meaningful employment is currently the number one challenge for people on the spectrum as they age into adulthood. Vanessa’s goal is to combine Troico’s vision and enable meaningful employment with natural product manufacturing – creating opportunities to break down the stigma surrounding individuals with disabilities.  It’s the full circle of sustainability, using natural products to enable inclusive work environments,” explains her nominator.

Richter is also a mentor to aspiring female entrepreneurs and is an active member of the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce, NKBA and other organizations.

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In the short time that Kristen Riggs has been on board as Marketing manager with Cefla North America, “she has taken the bull by the horns with a variety of large and small-scale projects with a degree of creativity and drive not yet seen before by our company.”

“It has been a long-time dream of Massimo Di Russo, GM at Cefla North America and senior to Kristen, to resurrect the company's annual open house event. Although postponed due to COVID-19, the event was weeks away from launching and ambitiously Kristen set her mind towards creating an event that would be bigger, better, and more content-heavy to support attendee's quest for knowledge on the best and latest finishing practices. A marketing campaign was created, including a series of email blitzes, an event landing page on the Cefla website, and a coordinated communications effort including more than 10 suppliers was completed.”

The 36-year-old Riggs has also been responsible for hosting two technical tours in Italy, trade show exhibits, overseeing the construction of a new customer-centric area in the company's finishing lab, and other product-focused training events hosted by the Charlotte, North Carolina-based finishing specialist.

”She has embraced the entire team, and likewise the team has embraced her – collaborating on projects of all types to achieve set objectives,” the nominator says. “With Kristen's help, the sales team has become more confident in their efforts. The leadership team can envision their future needs, and Kristen has proven her ability to execute them, no matter how simple or complex the challenge.”

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“Innovative” and “creatively entrepreneurial” are just some of the words used to describe Ben Roberts, U.S. marketing director for Kebony US. The modified wood manufacturer has North American headquarters St. Clair, Michigan, with offices and distribution centers located throughout the United States and Canada.

The 36-year-old Roberts has had an integral part in the company’s North American sales and brand expansion. “Ben has dramatically increased the awareness of Kebony, a modified wood which is a green alternative to tropical hardwoods,” says his nominator. “He's gotten the product in front of more people through marketing efforts not typically associated with an old school industry.”

“Ben has been instrumental in Kebony's strong growth in the U.S. over the past year,” adds another. “His knowledge of social media and storytelling, in conjunction with PR, have brought tremendous attention to the brand, contributing to the company's best year of sales to date.”

Roberts’ strong background in content and video marketing has also paid dividends for the company. “Ben has taken branded content into the wood world by creating incredible video series at both of his companies, First Timber Tips at TimberTown and now Design Vs. Build at Kebony,” says the first nominator. “He's also built a new Kebony website and social media presence and has effectively increased the reach of Kebony in the U.S.”

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“Passionately committed to making technology available to manufacturers,” Jonathan Saucier, product manager for Web-Cab Inc., “has dedicated his career to the advancement of software and technology for wood manufacturers.” Based in St-Jérôme, Quebec, Web-Cab specializes in manufacturing software solutions.

“The award-winning Web-Cab products developed with his late partner are defined by their ease of implementation and by their dramatic and fast impact on profitability and efficiency for wood manufacturing operations,” says his nominator. “His vision to contribute to the optimization of manufacturing facilities drives continuous innovation that responds to real need in our industry. His passion is contagious and, combined with his deep understanding of the unique challenges of wood manufacturing, make him a definite person-of-interest – and someone to watch for years to come,” she adds.

The 35-year-old Saucier “is a young professional who has the kind of vision and drive that can truly take our industry into the future of manufacturing, and ensure the sustainability of small to medium-size wood manufacturing businesses in North America. Without people like Jonathan, who have the knowledge and understanding to create products that bring our manufacturers into Industry 4.0 in a practical and realistic way, our industry may not survive the competition from cheaper outside sources," she says.

"He has helped small shops live the dream of going paper-free and we can't wait to see what will be next.”

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A “forward thinker” and “driven to excellence,” Chris Savic, president of S&S Woodcraft Inc., is considered a model for other small business owners.  Based in Cold Lake, Alberta, the company manufactures custom cabinets and countertops.

The 36-year-old Savic “is a forward-thinker in product, efficiency, accounting, team leadership, and marketing,” says one nominator. “His keen interest is to improve in all those areas, and he has invested significant time and money to do so. I place him in the top 10% of the business owners I have worked with in regard to his commitment to excellence. Most people in his position are reluctant (scared) to actually do what they need to do, even after they learn what they need to do. Chris will be a model for others to follow,” he adds.

The dedication Savic displays toward his company shows in the beautiful kitchens and woodwork produced by S&S, and the customer satisfaction in “helping clients realize their dreams are attainable in the heart of their home and throughout,” says a second nominator.

“Chris' pride in his craft and his determination to continue to produce beautiful woodwork is his motivation,” she adds. “It has been instilled in him since childhood, growing up in his father's woodworking shop. To always move further forward with no intention to stay stationary or become stagnant in an ever-changing field.”
 

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The CNC equipment engineer and software developer at CNC Factory, Josh Shen is motivated by the “challenge of building a better machine- making the best even better.”

“For three years Josh has developed and customized operating software solutions for CNC Factory machines. He listens to the customers’ needs and develops machining equipment based on their specific fabrication and system configuration particulars. Josh also performs engineering, testing and correcting on mechanical structures and on motion control,” says one nominator.

Shen has been instrumental in helping improve the Santa Ana, California-based company’s CNC routers, including the dust collection systems. “After the sale, Josh also provides software enhancements, modification services and troubleshoots CNC operational issues as they are identified. Customers call Josh directly and his greatest satisfaction is not only helping customers with their immediate need, but helping them be even more productive and achieve even more capacity from their CNC machines than they ever imagined,” he adds.

Born in China and educated in the United States, the 31-year-old Shen has two engineering degrees. “Josh is very intelligent, but he never tries to make anyone else feel less smart,” adds another nominator. “Josh always keeps a positive attitude. Josh enjoys his job and tries to help others feel the same way.” In recognition of his efforts at the company, Shen has been chosen to spearhead a new CNC Factory facility in New Jersey.

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The owner of Seven Trees Woodworking  LLC, Jarin Smoker “is a visionary who sets targets; then not only achieves them, but he also he exceeds them,” says one nominator.

The 34-year-old Smoker and his wife, Kelly, opened their custom woodwork business in 2009, and have experienced 10 years of consecutive growth. “Eleven would've been a slam dunk if it weren't for the COVID-19 situation; however, they effectively used the downtime to plan for the future and hope to pick up where they left off,” she adds. Based in New Holland, Pennsylvania, the commercial cabinetry, doors and millwork shop has 14 employees and grossed $2.6 million in 2019.

As his business has grown Smoker says, “it has been a pleasure to be able to provide employment for many families. We have a good thing going here with the dynamics of the employees, and I am honored to be able to work with them and learn from them.”

He adds, “I am motivated by working with great people, and being able to create awesome projects with them. I really enjoy the process of working with designers to design a project, and then fabricating the millwork all the way to installing it. I am also motivated to provide a workplace that builds people up.”

“He has taught so much to his employees, friends and family,” a third nominator says. In addition to being actively involved in industry associations, Smoker also performs volunteer work on projects at his church.

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“As the vice president of Operations for Keystone Wood Specialties, Nick Stoltzfus is helping to forge the future for his family’s nearly 50-year old business,” says his nominator. Founded in 1972 by Sam Stoltzfus, company president and CEO, and Nick’s father, Keystone Wood Specialties has earned a reputation for manufacturing high-quality custom wood components, backed by personalized customer service.

Described as “an intelligent, calm and steadfast leader,” the 32-year-old Stoltzfus has worked closely with his father to preserve the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based company’s “time-honored craftsmanship and work ethic, while incorporating new technologies and product lines that will lay the groundwork for success in the years ahead,” says his nominator.

“Nick’s thorough understanding of all aspects of the business is invaluable to the woodworking industry, most recently evident during the recent COVID 19 crisis,” she adds. “His leadership during this challenging time saved jobs and ensured the company remained viable so that the many contractors, remodelers and cabinetmakers that rely on Keystone Wood Specialties’ products could remain viable as well.”

His nominator continues, “Nick’s deep appreciation for the hard work that his family and the many long-term employees have put forth in building and growing Keystone Wood Specialties motivates him to ensure that this legacy continues.”

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It’s no exaggeration to say Jon Taylor wears many hats. The president of  Ruck Cabinet Doors LLC, the 39-year-old Taylor is also president of Lycos Inc. and its companies Lycos Finish, Lycos Manufacturing, Ruck Specialties, and Ruck Surfaces.

Ruck joined the Lycos family of companies a little over a year ago, following Taylor’s visit to the bankrupt cabinet door shop to purchase used equipment. “He quickly learned the story behind the shop and how 40 people were laid off without a warning. Their latest paycheck bounced, so they weren't even paid for the hours they put in,” says his nominator. Production had halted with hundreds of cabinet doors still in process, leaving small cabinet shops across the nation in the lurch.

“Being moved by all of the employees' stories, Jon realized not only could he help, he needed to. He made a deal with the former company to acquire all equipment, the customer base, and most importantly, rehire the employees and get their jobs back. Within a month, Jon had the cabinet door shop up and running again, fulfilling orders, and most importantly, rehired the employees,” she says.  “We now have a successful cabinet door shop!”

“It's been a crazy, transformative year, but we were able to turn everything around by focusing on supporting our employees, developing those customer relationships, and finding ways to be more efficient in our shop. All of this wouldn't be possible without Jon. He saw something in this shop and in those employees that he couldn't walk away from,” she added.

“Jon wants his companies to succeed so his employees can succeed. He's passionate and inspired by our passion and loyalty to these companies.”

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From her first day at Osborne Wood Products Inc., Sarah Walker “has shown initiative expressed in creative problem-solving skills and team leadership,” says her nominator. Starting as a CSR at the Toccoa, Georgia-based components manufacturer, she challenged the status quo and developed tools to streamline and make more effective communications, front office accounting and timely customer response systems.  

“When she entered the CSR arena the training was nothing short of a nightmare for the new employee.  Sarah offered to revamp the system. She started with managerial permission as well as team interaction.  Her goals involved updating a readily accessible data portal, using shared headsets, creating a training process that was deliberate, empowering processes to support trainees’ journey to success,” he describes.

Now office manager, the 31-year-old Walker is also involved in developing tomorrow’s workforce. Not only has she created a woodworking blog and videos, shoptalkwithsarah.com,  “Sarah enhanced the ‘we hire students’ into a strategic goal-achieving internship program, working with our local Work-Based Learning Coordinator, Pam D. Hill M.Ed. to aid students to achieve educational and life goals,” he explains. Beyond helping interns develop skills, Walker has also promoted the program through public recognition of achievers, including the posting of billboards. “This served to enhance the self-confidence of our interns as well as to promote the value of work ethic. Woodworking is viewed as an area of opportunity as a result of this recognition,” her nominator says.

In addition to mentoring students, Walker also facilitates shop tours for high school teachers to highlight manufacturing jobs in the community. She also mentors parolees on job skills, such as interviewing.

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A partner at Cabentry order entry software for custom cabinet manufacturers, Myron Wittmer “is a visionary as it relates to the evolution of the product we have developed and continue to develop.”

“Quite frankly, I can't believe he is only 24 years old. He brings a mindset and experience level to each discussion of someone with 20+ years in the field,” says his nominator. For example, “We talked about building an Element Designs aluminum frame door pricing configurator into our software one day.  Without knowing how to program code in C#, the next day he had a prototype.  He takes ideas and makes them a reality.  That mindset, drive, mentality and willingness to turn the thought into a tangible artifact is invaluable.”

Prior to the startup of the Jasper, Indiana-based Cabentry, Wittmer was a software design expert at the woodworking shop where he worked. “His ability to put himself in [woodworkers’] positions and consistently find technology solutions for the customer is amazing,” says his nominator. “He builds trust with them, and with trust, he brings business to us.  He is credible right out of the gate. Our business has benefited from his ability to capture this trust from the customer.”

He adds, “What I think motivates Myron is he loves challenges.  He loves hearing someone say, ‘It would be nice if we could...’, and he goes and does it to prove it can be done. Nine to five is the time we see him, but he is working around the clock on the challenges that are thrown out there.”

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From his start, sweeping the floors and assembling drawer parts, Cameron Young worked his way up to project manager, and then production manager, before becoming a co-owner of Wood Specialties Inc., where he is also vice president, overseeing the production and installation of high-end projects. Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Wood Specialties is a well-known manufacturer of custom cabinetry and furniture in the Midwest.

“Our high-end clientele value our attention to detail, customer service, and commitment to quality,” he says. “We continue to implement cutting edge technology and machinery to produce the highest quality products. Our 3D modeling, rendering, and virtual walkthroughs are above and beyond what I see anyone else doing in the industry.”

Described as a “technological craftsman with a passion for all things woodworking,” the 35-year-old Young says he is motivated by “making clients happy, by making their dreams and visions come true. Also, creating a great work environment with all the tools and technology needed to perform at the highest level.”

Young also is focused on “nurturing the family environment of the company and trying to provide as many benefits as possible to everyone in the (approximately 20-person) company." Also worthwhile are his efforts on behalf of the community and industry.

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The controller and corporate secretary at Richmond Plywood Corp. Ltd., Ali Zarei, CPA, CA, MBA, “with his highly effective financial management, has continued to propel the company’s financial success to new heights, by maximizing our company’s intrinsic value and building a solid balance sheet that enables us to weather any financial storm,” says his nominator.

A former recipient of the 2017 Canadian Forest Industries Top 10 Under 40 award, the 33-year-old  Zarei’s “working capital, liquidity, and specifically free cash-flow management is bar-none in my view as it ensures the utmost resiliency and longevity of the company is maintained,” his nominator says.

“He’s expressed his extraordinary financial and accounting comprehensiveness on a daily basis as his passion for chief financial steering truly glows, which serves as a fuel for our corporate success. Since joining Richply four years ago, all key balance and ratio records have been surpassed and he continues to raise the financial expectations, only to beat them again. His keenness and pursuit of setting new financial precedents are pivotal in his continued achievement of impeccable results.”

At the Richmond, British Columbia-based plywood manufacturer, Zarei’s “constant pursuit of excellence is the key driver as he’s constantly driven to perform better than the preceding day, and above all, he’s always aiming to boost efficiencies, whenever he detects room for improvement. Inevitably, his high standards elevate his team members’ standards, allowing for cohesive improvements to materialize,” adds his nominator.

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Meet the honorees of the Wood Industry 40 Under 40 Class of 2020,  announced by Woodworking Network. This year marks the fifth annual awarding of the 40 Under 40, which celebrates the next generation of industry professionals who are making an impact on wood products manufacturing in North America.

"In our fifth year of celebrating the career paths of the best and brightest young leaders in the wood products manufacturing industry, we couldn’t be more pleased with the roster of nominees for this year’s distinction," said Tim Fixmer, CEO of CCI Media, the parent of Woodworking Network. "There were so many nominations enthusiastically placed for the 2020 group that we could easily have changed the name of the list to the '120 Under 40.' What impressed us the most was how each one of the nominees represents outstanding performance in their fields, and collectively, they comprise our industry."

This year's class of Wood Industry 40 Under 40 includes wood products manufacturers, suppliers, developers and designers, from all facets of the woodworking industry, including: cabinetry, furniture, architectural woodwork, closets, wood components, and flooring.

"It's always difficult to select the best of the best when it comes to judging the 40 under 40 nominees. In addition to building successful businesses and careers, the Class of 2020 was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest challenge most of us have ever faced," added Harry Urban, publisher. "I applaud this year's honorees for their ability to keep their companies moving forward in the toughest of times while dedicating themselves to their communities and public causes. These are outstanding women and men who paint a bright future for our industry."

View the slideshow (arranged in alphabetical order) to find out more about this year's class of honorees.

Honorees will be recognized at a virtual Leadership Reception, to be held Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. CT, with more information to follow. Honorees also will be featured in the FDMC October print and digital issues. The 2020 40 Under 40 Award program is sponsored by Timber Products Co. and Hexagon Production Software: Cabinet Vision and Alphacam.

Plaques for the 2020 Wood Industry 40 Under 40 are being provided by Epilog Laser.

 

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at karen.koenig@woodworkingnetwork.com